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Review: Shake The Dust

BY NOLWAZI GUMEDE

"The dream of every kid that grows up in the ghetto is to live, but the dream now is to change the slums for the better". This is the mantra that the hip hop artists featured in this documentary mention.

Most children who grow up in the slums or the 'hood' as it is colloquially referred to in hip hop culture, live their lives anticipating an early death because of the entrapment of drugs and poverty. However, the break dancers featured in this documentary want to change the slums for better. Shake the Dust is a feature length documentary that documents the lives and stories of break-dancers from Uganda, Cambodia, Colombia and Yemen; third world countries where one wouldn't expect hip hop culture to strive.

The film begins with the violent protests of the Yemen Revolution as a backdrop of the hardships that the citizens of these countries are faced with, highlighting how these calamities affect mostly the poverty stricken inhabitants of the slum areas. As the film unfolds, we come to learn how hip hop culture has impacted the lives of the break-dancers being interviewed with some of them being emancipated from the life of drugs and living on the streets whilst other break-dancers use the form of dance as a way to clear their minds and get away from the calamities that face them every day. No matter the reason, each dancer interviewed in this documentary has a deep connection with hip hop culture that has defined who they are and what they choose to stand for.

Even deeper than the story of the impact of hip hop in their lives, is also the fact that each of the break-dancers tells a touching tale of growing up in the slums and the hardships they have endured. One of the dancers speaks of losing her parents at an early age and being forced to live and fend for herself from the tender age of 15. Another speaks of how they woke up one day to the sound of bulldozers coming to search the houses they lived in because the land had just been recently bought. Each dancer’s connection to hip hop is driven by their personal experiences and hip hop culture becomes a form of expression for the artists. Other aspects of hip hop culture such as rap also form part of the narrative of this documentary, using it as another form of expression and a voice to communicate their outcries on the political and economical issues that have influenced their lives.

The documentary offers insight on how hip hop culture has been able to filter through to these improbable parts of the world and give these people hope that it provided the pioneering hip hop artists of the South Bronx where hip hop culture began. Most of these interviewees learned about break-dancing from seeing someone else performing the tricks and skills of the dance but now hip hop has become something greater than just being the best at head-spins. It has become a movement to change the slums and give people hope of making it out and creating a better life. 

NolwaziGumede is a Fashion obsessed film enthusiast with a lust for the finer things in life.

Twitter: @nowazie

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The 36th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) is organised by the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a special project of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Humanities, Cheryl Potgieter) with support from the National Film and Video Foundation,, KwaZulu-Natal Film Commission, City of Durban, German Embassy, Goethe Institut, Industrial Development Corporation, Gauteng Film Commission, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and a range of other valued partners.

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